Hi everybody! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything. I keep meaning to post more book reviews but I always feel the need to read multiple books at once and I just end up slowing myself down. You all know how it is.
Today, though, I wanted to talk about something I’ve noticed other book nerds and authors talking about which is: when should a story truly end? This whole conversation has been spurred on by the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, which is the much anticipated (and slightly controversial) sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I haven’t seen the movie yet so I can’t give my opinion on it but it got me thinking about franchises and if there really is such a thing as ending a story, especially when it is incredibly popular. (Note: I’m mostly going to be focusing on mediums like books, movies, and television. I’m not going to be talking about anime or video games as I don’t know much about those mediums and they would warrant their own discussion.)
Let’s start with examples of franchises who have done a great job with universe expansion. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the first one that comes to mind. First off, the franchise has lasted for a decade now with some of the most successful trilogies and crossovers in the history of film. Regardless of whether you are in this fandom or not, you have to admit that the MCU has done an incredible job with story telling. They took the usual superhero story formula and found ways to twist it and shape into nuanced and interesting stories. They’ve introduced characters and remade characters that were, at one point, laughable. While MCU hasn’t “ended” certain characters’ stories, they have realized that other characters deserve a spotlight. Audiences are still getting answers about the original characters as well as the new characters. These have even spawned successful tv series. When they decide to “end” certain characters’ stories, audiences will still have other characters to follow. That is what will keep a franchise going. (Granted, MCU does have a vast collection of source material to choose from.) Comic book based franchises have always tended to do the best. The DC tv shows have been some of my favorites in the past couple of years because they took notes from MCU. These franchises know how to keep audiences looking for more at the end of each episode or movie, just as the original source material did.
Other franchises, however, have done this without a printed source material. The Star Wars franchise is a really good example of this. The newest trilogy has done a great job introducing compelling new characters and reviving the lore that fans want to learn more about. This is also what Fantastic Beasts has done and I truly enjoyed the first movie. What all of these franchises have in common is they know how to revive stories instead of just redoing the same old thing or trying to do too much with newer things that fans don’t care about. Taking it back to the printed word, authors often can’t help but continue world building. JK Rowling is constantly dropping little tidbits about the Harry Potter series and, while I do love it, it can also be exhausting sometimes. There are authors like James Patterson who are just constantly releasing books in every genre and it’s hard to get excited about these books anymore because you just can’t keep up with these series. It is really hard to get audiences excited when they have a market that is so saturated with extended franchises. That is why the actual world building process has to be carefully though out, like the MCU. The Harry Potter series has a really rich history and has characters like Newt Scamander, who have their own adventures. Authors, writers, and directors who genuinely care about their creative properties are going to have the most success in having a long lasting series.
Let’s get to the franchises that flop. The biggest reason for this is because of money. Horror movie series are the biggest offenders of this. Over the summer, I saw the newest Jurassic Park movie and you could tell they tried really hard to make it fresh and new. At the end of the day, though, dinosaurs ate people and no one learned anything. JK Rowling is going to be mentioned in this section as well for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play fell victim to its own hype. The lore got muddled in the process. The new characters fell flat while the older characters didn’t get any proper development. It shouldn’t feel like the writers are reaching for substance. I’m also fully aware that finances plays a part in why some of these franchises feel the need to keep going but, I’m not going to focus on that too much. The lack of involvement of the original authors has also caused problems. Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, has spoken about how he regrets not being involved in the movie adaptation process. You can’t just cobble together a franchise because one particular part worked out nicely.
In conclusion, franchises can be kept alive if it is a well thought-out effort on everyone’s part. It is perfectly fine to end a franchise, even if fans will be sad about it. It is better to have a fulfilling ending than an empty sequel. There really is no such thing as “too much story” when the story is written in a dynamic and thorough way.
Thanks for sticking around if you made it this far. I really appreciate it. Let me know your opinions about franchises and extended universes.